There’s no place like home.
Especially for the Class AAA No. 8 Oak Hill Red Devils, who had largely been road warriors to this point of the football campaign before returning to the friendly confines of John P. Duda Stadium Friday to face No. 12 Lewis County and begin a four-game homestand to conclude the regular season.
Playing before a pro-Red Devil homecoming crowd simply added to the mix, and Oak Hill — still smarting from a lopsided loss at Point Pleasant last week — responded in a solid manner and posted a 27-17 victory to hike its mark to 6-1.
Senior standout Jalen Jones rushed for just 58 yards on 19 carries against the Minutemen, but he found the end zone four times and kicked three PATs to account for his team’s scoring.
Afterwards, Jones said it was good to play before the home fans for only the second time in 2013.
“Man, it’s very nice to be home,” he said. “It’s a different environment when we play here.”
And, in the wake of the Point Pleasant setback, the Devils needed to get back into the win column, he stressed. “We had some tough road games,” said Jones. “We were ready to bounce back. (Last week) we felt we let the whole community down.” Friday’s win “showed our character,” he added.
Clinging to a 20-17 lead after Lewis County’s Ryan Carson burst up the middle on a 15-yard run to paydirt with 4:24 left in the third, Oak Hill needed to answer to keep its foe at a comfortable distance.
The Red Devils (6-1) did just, fashioning a 14-play, 57-yard drive that chewed up 7:15 of game clock and ended with a 7-yard Jones TD that stretched the lead to 27-17 with 9:03 left. Jones, Jarrell Green and Kadrin Goodman provided a majority of the offense on the ground on the key possession. As the end zone got closer, though, the Red Devils resorted to their passing attack to get them over the hump.
On fourth-and-6 from the 30, Jones went in motion out of the backfield and quarterback Deonte Scruggs hit him with a huge 8-yard pass on the Oak Hill sideline, moving the chains. Two plays later, Scruggs connected with Goodman on a 12-yarder that set up a first-and-goal at the 8. Two plays later, Jones scored his pivotal fourth TD.
“We did what we had to do on that last drive,” said Oak Hill coach Eddie Souk Jr. “We could throw (more) tonight, but we had success running the ball, so why put it up?”
“They (Lewis County) are a good football team,” Souk continued. He said it would have been better if the Red Devils “hadn’t put the ball on the ground so many times (three lost fumbles),” but “I thought our kids responded well.”
“Give them (Lewis) all the respect,” said Jones. “They had a great scheme.
“Our line did an excellent job. This was a very good team win overall.”
After Oak Hill’s third fumble, Lewis advanced the pigskin to the Red Devil 2 with 2.7 seconds to go, but workhorse back Mark Metzgar (27 carries for 131 yards and one score) was held out of the end zone by the hosts’ defense to preserve the 10-point win.
“They’re so big, physical and athletic, and they have a good, diverse backfield,” said Minutemen coach Ed Vincent. “We had to fight and scratch (all night). We didn’t tackle well in the first half.
“We had our chances.”
Vincent admitted Oak Hill’s long drive “took the wind out of us. Their quarterback made some big throws.” And the Scruggs-to-Jones hookup was the “play of the game,” he added. “It kept the drive alive.”
On the night, Scruggs, a sophomore, was 4-for-4 for 43 yards.
Green amassed 105 yards on 13 carries to pace the Oak Hill ground attack. His 24-yard burst helped set up Jones’ second TD, a 7-yard scamper that made it 14-7 with 1:23 left in the opening half.
Goodman added 57 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 35 more stripes.
Jones also had a big 59-yard punt return to the Lewis 11 to set up his first score.
Trailing 14-7, the Minutemen’s Riley Gunter drilled a 37-yard field goal with 3.8 seconds left in the first half to trim the deficit to 14-10.
“Oak Hill’s a good team,” said Vincent. “They’re going to be trouble for anybody.”
There’s no place like home.
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